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by Peter Moskos

September 22, 2014

Youth: The future (prison) leaders of tomorrow

The fourth in a series from Adam Plantinga's excellent 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman:
As a cop, it’s easy to get discouraged about the state of today’s youth. You don’t see much of the honors student bound for Dartmouth, because she doesn’t do anything that would cause her to come into contact with you. You mostly see the teen hustler wearing a jacket with dollar signs written on it gearing up to break The Ten Commandments but good. You patrol neighborhoods where toddlers chew absently on cigarette butts from the ground and 2-year-olds with matted hair and jam-smeared faces play unsupervised in the street. You see fifth graders with girls’ names tattooed on their arms. You talk to teenagers whose dad is locked up and whose mom is strung out on dope. The kid’s breakfast is a bag of chips and his lunch is a butter sandwich—which is exactly what it sounds like—and his friends are all just like him and some of them are carrying guns. Does it really come as a shock that these young people tend to fall out on the lawless end? They’re just little criminals waiting to become big criminals. The shock would be if they turned out halfway normal. You marvel at the few that make it. It’s the equivalent of muscling their way out of quicksand.

1 comment:

Dave- IL said...

Very good summation of a complex problem.

It is all well and good to promote individual responsibility. We can't give criminals a free pass on harming people or ripping people off just because of their background. On the other hand, what do we expect when we--and our "drug war"--have made prison a rite of passage in many communities. The culture of prisons (from the tats, to the baggy pants to the attitudes)is out on our streets for all to see. If people don't like it, then we need to seek alternatives.